Message from Yamada Sensei

I am sorry I am not able to be at Donovan’s funeral this weekend. I hope you understand but with the current situation, it’s not possible for me to make the trip. Instead, I would like to share a short message to express my condolences to Donovan’s family and students and friends.

It came as such a shock to me to hear the sad news about Donovan on February 22nd. I know it was felt the same way for everyone around the world. I have always said that Donovan was like a son to me, from the time he came to live as a young ushi deshi at NYA and even on our recent phone call for my birthday, just 6 days before he passed away.

Like me, Donovan devoted his entire life to teaching aikido. There are not many people who have done this from an early age, sacrificing so much personally in order to be a full time aikido instructor. Even though Donovan was my student, we both understood this kind of life. I think we made a good team. I am always early and he was always late. So if you put us together, our class would start right on time.

I have so many memories of Donovan. Like everyone else, he made a big impression on me. I will miss Donovan very much. And I’m so sorry for his family, and for his son Nathaniel. I know Donovan loved him very much, and was so proud of him.

Yamada Sensei’s Post Birthday Thank You Message

We understand there is much sadness in the aikido community, as we all mourn the loss of Waite Sensei. Yamada Sensei prepared this message on Sunday, Feb. 21, before he received the the sad news about Donovan. So let’s take a moment during this difficult time to enjoy Yamada Sensei’s message, as he says hello and expresses his gratitude for all his birthday greetings.

Condolences for Donovan Waite Sensei

I would like to let you know much I appreciate the outpouring of support and sympathy I have received since Donovan’s passing. It is like losing a son, and I am trying to deal with this in my own personal way, as I know you are too.

I understand that many of you want to honor Donovan together. I think we owe it to his family to give them the time to make their own decisions first. We will, of course, help them in any way we can, but this takes time and they have many decisions to make that can only be done amongst themselves. We need to give them the privacy and the chance to do that. Of course, if you wish to hold your own memorials as his students and friends, I understand this is already happening and is very helpful. But the USAF will wait patiently for as much time as the family needs to allow them to decide what they would like to do first. When we know more, we will share it with you.

Y. Yamada

A Special Holiday Greeting

A special holiday greeting from Yamada Sensei. Please share with your aikido friends!


A Special Presentation from Yamada Sensei

On this just-completed video, Yamada Sensei shares some of his personal aikido history through a grand tour of the NY Aikikai kamiza. Aside from O Sensei’s photo and calligraphy, there are photos of Yamada Sensei’s fellow uchi deshi – Tamura Sensei, Chiba Sensei, Kanai Sensei and Sugano Sensei – all of whom have passed away. On the opposite wall are three of Yamada Sensei’s most cherished teachers, Doshu Kisshamaru Ueshiba, Kisaburo Osawa and Koichi Tohei.

The movie is about 20 minutes long so grab your popcorn and enjoy. Click on the link below to view.”  New York Aikikai

Y. Yamada – Kamiza Konfidential.


A Message from Yamada Sensei 2020_08_09

There have been some complaints on social media by aikido practitioners about how women have been treated unfairly. These complaints about gender equity are targeting me and the USAF, so I’d like to express my opinion. Gender discrimination in aikido is something I never believed in. I have tried to remain fair and open minded in my aikido career. I consider people’s rank, experience and integrity to be very important. I personally view my students, women and men, the same and have given equal opportunities to all of them, on the mat, for promotions, to teach class and to open their own dojos.

One of my biggest surprises was that there were two of my students, NYA members, among the group complaining. I was very upset and felt sad because these two women were equally treated just like other people at NY Aikikai. They were given a class to teach regularly every week along with other female teachers. They took my classes for decades, and even traveled to teach at seminars. Needless to say, there was no complaint from male members about the opportunities I gave my female students and many men attended the classes taught by female teachers. One teacher responsibility I feel strongly about is to create peace and harmony in your dojo. Anybody who makes unnecessary waves disrupts the balance and enjoyment for others who want to come and practice peacefully. When people ask, “Was I not chosen to teach because I’m a woman?” I have to say that is not true. It’s simply because you are not ready yet and the time will come for you sooner or later.

I’m Japanese and educated in the old budo world, but I know how to make adjustments and to be flexible. I knew I would be teaching in USA and I tried my best to make mental adjustments when I came to USA.

You must understand that aikido is a unique art, not like other arts or sports. On the mat, all people can practice equally and enjoy equally. There are many women who have even more physical ability and skills than men have. Women may and can participate in all sports and martial arts but in a different way we do in aikido. For instance, sports teams are separate by gender like baseball, boxing, football and basketball. Even most other martial arts are separate even by rank. That is why each sport has a separate league. We don’t have to separate or make another league in aikido. We are all together.

In old days, aikido was tougher and only limited to persons accepted to become students. But after World War II, the late Kisshomaru Doshu made a big adjustment and changed the way of practice to the way we practice today. Uke gives in completely to Nage and reacts according to Nage’s physical ability, so that everybody can have fun on the mat. We all should thank Doshu for giving us an opportunity to enjoy aikido equally. I want all of you to concentrate only on practice, not other stuff; just feel lucky to be a part of aikido society.

I’d like to show you a photo taken about 45 years ago. They were my assistants at that time. Don’t they look tough and don’t they look proud?

Y. Yamada


A Message from Yamada Sensei 2020_07_29





Yamada Sensei’s Article for Honbu Dojo Newsletter

Yamada Sensei was asked by Honbu Dojo to write an article for their newsletter. Yamada Sensei wrote the article in Japanese and also provided a copy translated into English. Sensei asked that this article be shared with USAF members and his students around the world:

To the Members with Gratitude

Yoshimitsu Yamada
US Aikido Federation

I am writing this at a small park in front of my apartment.  It’s 7 am.  Beside me, some ten doves are pecking at bread crumbs.  Every now and then, a brave sparrow couple dares to intrude.  What a heart-warming sight!  Were I given a cup of Italian espresso and a Cuban cigar, it would be beyond my bliss!  But, under the current circumstances …   When the birds retreat to their nap, the park may find a lonesome man dancing in a frenzy to his smart-phone music while, away on a bench young lovers, sitting 6 feet apart, may still affirm their love.

To our generation who never knew the Spanish flu of 100 years ago, the “Corona attack” was a horror no one had experienced to date.  Saying this in the past tense sounds as if the issue has come to an end, but unfortunately, we must still fear and be ready for a second and third wave.  Bearing this firmly in mind, let me tell you how we have faced and coped with this catastrophe.

Please allow me to begin with a personal experience.  In February every year, I go to Japan to take care of both personal and official business.  It was the same this February.  At that time, I had heard about the corona virus, but I was not aware that we were in any immediate danger.  However, when I checked in at my usual hotel, I noticed something was amiss.  February is China’s New Year, but the Chinese tourist groups that normally fill the hotels were strangely absent.  Then, having learned the news of infections on a cruise ship, I immediately decided to return to the US.  Alas, the corona virus traveled faster than me, and upon return I found New York under an emergency order.  In March, we were told to stay home and close our Dojo.  Frankly, at this point, I felt that this would be like a vacation, but for more than two months now I have been inundated with phone calls and letters that required my attention (never mind vacation).  Then my thoughts were full of “negatives” – declining Aikido membership, financial problems with the dojo, disappointing cancelation of domestic and international summer camps as well as more than a dozen training sessions, etc. that I look forward to and enjoy.  Most painfully, I learned about the passing of our members and their loved ones due to Covid-19.  

When I felt the most despair, it was the very people whose future I worried about that helped lift my spirit.  Nearly every day I received phone calls of encouragement from members around the US and the world.  Hearing their words, I was happy they felt a part of the Dojo, that Dojo is theirs; further, I was touched by the passion they have for Aikido and the affection they feel for Dojo and Sensei, i.e., me.  As time went on, they came together which led to their developing an on-line class program.  This act by Aikido members reaffirmed for me how important Aikido, Dojo and students are to me.  All this made me very proud of them.  They are my treasures.  The corona episode, which initially made me feel so negative, has in the end made me appreciate the positives. 

Thank you all!  Let us persevere together!  You and I have Aikido!!

A Message From Yamada Sensei 2020_05_10

Dear USAF members:
It’s hard to believe that almost 2 months have gone by since we were in our dojos on the mat together. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday, and sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago.  I am still receiving so many messages from my students around the world, and it brings me much happiness to hear from you and know you are doing okay.  As for me, I am healthy and well, but missing my old life very much. I am just waiting for the day when I can be in my office speaking with people face-to-face, and being on the mat with everyone again. I never realized how much I would miss all the noise and commotion from the construction outside my NY Aikikai office window!
Well, we all must be patient and do what is best of our health and each other.  This is my busy seminar season, and unfortunately I will not be traveling for many months. It is also with a sad heart that I must announce that the USAF summer camp is now officially canceled.  The hotel is in complete agreement and understanding about the situation, and the they are not even open for business yet. As I’m sure you can imagine, it will not be possible to keep everyone safe and enjoy our time doing aikido.  This is very hard for me, there are so many of you I see each summer and it brings me great joy to have the USAF host this camp. It is one of my favorite weeks each year.  The good news however is that we already have our contract to return to the hotel in 2021, and will extend our invitation to Osawa Sensei and Jikou Sugano Sensei to join us next year.
Please stay healthy and take care. I will be in touch again soon, hopefully it will be with good news with a positive forecast for dojos and the aikido world.
Y. Yamada

Greetings from Yamada Sensei

Dear USAF Members,

All of us in the aikido community have been affected by COVID-19. It seems like almost all dojos have closed either voluntarily or by government orders. It is hard for me to have the NY Aikikai closed but we must do our part to help and make sure our students stay safe. Many of you have been kind to call or write to see how I am. I want to assure you all that I am in good health – but very bored – and I am looking forward to the time we will all be able to train again. Hopefully we will be able to do so at summer camp. We are in touch with the hotel  but we must wait a little longer until our final decision.

Y. Yamada

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